Thursday, June 7, 2012

phenomenal talent on display (THE MEMORIALS)

The Memorials
Self-Released; 2012
In my review of the self-titled debut record from The Memorials, I made specific mention of the phenomenal talent on display, but I was also confused by the attempts to water down the prog rock with some generic ‘60s-‘70s hard rock tropes. Not to take any real credit here, but it does seem that the band took my constructive criticism to heart when recording Delirium, since it’s difficult to detect a false step or wrong paths taken. Simply put, there’s less fluff and much more focus to the direction of the music, all of which leads to a stellar sophomore release.
From beginning to end, Viveca Hawkins reaches out through the speakers and shakes the listener around, using both the strength of her soulful voice and the weight of her sociopolitical lyrics. Criticism of the drug war and the prison-industrial complex are pared with heartfelt pleas for increased cultural awareness – admittedly, it’s nice to hear someone not within the punk and folk spheres actually sing about something specific that’s not related to tales of sex, love, or romantic longing. More importantly, Hawkins displays a very unique sort of power and intensity that I find most compelling, in that I’m not sure I’d find these songs quite as interesting if the singer was a typically histrionic male rock star type.

Musically, the songs combine hip-hop, post-prog, and arena rock with style – imagine Lauren Hill fronting At The Drive In or M.I.A. collaborating with Muse. And I would be remiss to not mention the rich fusion of funk, soul, and jazz textures, which call to mind thick slices of Parliament Funkadelic, Sly & The Family Stone, Robert Randolph, and Ben Harper. Nick Brewer’s guitar aptitude is off the charts, and Thomas Pridgen wails on the drums with a fury, purpose, and appreciation for time signature fluctuations reminiscent of Mike Portnoy. In fact, my Dream Theater-loving brothers would probably enjoy wide swathes of this record, especially in how the lengthy, embellished arrangements give all the instruments a chance to shine.
Delirium aims for the highest of heights, and achieves them easily, especially on “Fluorescent’s Unforgiving,” “Gone,” “Daisies,” and “Mr. Entitled.” On the whole, I’m really pleased to hear how much The Memorials have grown as a band in the last two years – political prog rock might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I truly enjoyed this record.

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